Guide to Baseball Fiction: Frank O'Rourke

Back to Short Story Index page

Back to Novels Index page

Frank O'Rourke (1916-1989), American genre-fiction writer, was one of the most productive sport-fiction writers for American magazines in the post-WWII period. A selected edition of his stories, The Heavenly World Series, appeared in March 2002 from Carroll & Graf.

It's O'Rourke's typical story, the veteran coming back with an exclamation point; this time, however, it's sharply handled, with first-rate dialogue and keen character development.

O'Rourke loved to present real people under a thin coating of fiction; this story is one of the farther-fetched examples of his technique.

The story is narrated by the man who wants to hire them; it's a curious study of male-bonding on the margins of baseball.

Good character sketches of both men, but an excessively pat ending.

In many ways this is O'Rourke's archetypal story, the one he kept telling over and over with minor variations.

The supernatural ballgame that goes into serious extra innings reappears in later baseball fiction, notably Kinsella's Iowa Baseball Confederacy.

One of the best game anecdotes ever done, in the context of a classically-plotted short story with considerable nostalgic depth.

Keenly described game action.

As often in O'Rourke's stories, the central events are given depth, here with the character of the scout's terminally ill wife, who shares his love of the game.

Interesting study of the magical quality of statistical milestones in baseball. The hero gets his final hits against O'Rourke's "Philadelphia Quakers," a thinly fictionalized version of the Phillies' "Whiz Kids" team.

A reflective, well-written story, focussed on a typical O'Rourke hero: a self-effacing ordinary Joe with a sense of perspective.

This story lies on the hokier side of O'Rourke's work, with its big galoot of a hero and its villain redeemed by a final magnanimous gesture.

O'Rourke's first baseball novel, based on his up-close observations of the Whiz Kid Phillies team; its earnest appreciation of ballplayers and coaches muffles any dramatic potential the story may have. Similar to Mark Harris's Southpaw, but lacking that later novel's linguistic inventiveness and ear for character. Where Harris has Henry Wiggen, The Team has the somewhat lifeless Benny Benson, a sober and un-smart-alecky veteran coach, as its narrator.